Spoiler alert- this post contains photos and video of a chicken being plucked. Although there is absolutely no blood and gore, the chicken is, of course, no longer living. It is not gruesome in any way, but it you’d rather not see a dead chicken, this post is not for you.
I am so excited to share this with you, invisible readers, that I literally cleaned up from today’s chicken processing, made a cup of tea, and sat down here at the computer. Blog content doesn’t GET any fresher than that! Well, and the cold breath of spring semester is breathing down the back of my neck- I wanted to be sure to get this in the can before my free time was again just a memory.
Today, we processed some chickens.
This is not unusual- we’ve been processing a few chickens several times a year since we first jumped into chicken keeping, 3 years ago. We don’t usually do more than a handful at a time, making it a morning’s project, with a full freezer at the end. It’s pretty satisfying, and the results are delicious. However, our last two hatches were enormously successful, and we are a bit overrun with juvenile chickens just now. Even with replacing some stock from the predator issues we had this winter, we had 7 chickens to process from the first fall hatch, and will have probably SIXTEEN from the second batch.
That, my friends, is a lot of chickens. And while we’re pretty fast and handy at this point with most of the process, all those chickens are going to need to be plucked. Here on the Farmlet, it takes 2 women working together somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes to pluck one bird- it’s a little tedious, and slower than any other part of our system, not too bad when you’re doing just a few. But those 16 chickens are staring me in the eye, tripping me in the yard, and eating us out of house and home. A SERIOUS processing session for that second batch is clearly just weeks away, and no one wants to spend almost 3 solid hours doing nothing but plucking chickens. There’s GOT to be a better way- and of course there is. There’s commercial chicken pluckers, like this one:
You chuck chickens into the tub, it spins around real fast, and rubber fingers inside rub off the feathers. Super fast- under 30 seconds, but if we had 500 bucks without a home, we’d put it into the land-buying fund or get the tiny farm dog’s teeth cleaned.
There’s also tub pluckers you can make yourself, most built using the Whizbang plans, but the parts are STILL more than 400 bucks, and then you need to store the damn thing. Although they ARE super fun to watch. See a theme here? Hand-plucking chickens is free, but tedious and time consuming. Automatic pluckers are fast, but expensive and bulky. Fortunately, we were able to turn this problem over to the Farmlet Department of Research and Development (no surprise here, I’m Research), and came up with a solution.
There’s a number of videos on YouTube where folks are using what they call the DIY chicken plucker: it’s a PVC pipe cap with rubber tie downs sticking out of it, attached to a corded hand drill. You hold a chicken up to the spinning aparatus, the cap rotates, the rubber strips whack off the feathers. It’s cheap and relatively easy to make (it took the Development end of R&D about a half hour to knock it out)- but the all important question was: Would it work? Would it save time, or just make a huge and hilarious mess? From the videos we watched, it clearly could go either way.
Below is a shot of our setup, right before its maiden voyage:
I’m excited to report that it TOTALLY WORKED! This afternoon we processed 3 chickens, and it took less than 5 minutes per bird, even BEFORE we refine our technique. This means the DIY solution more than halves the time we’re spending per bird, and only takes one of us to do. It’s MAGIC!
So, despite my desire to insert many plucking related jokes into this post (“You brought him, YOU pluck him!” or “Pluck her, I hardly KNOW her”), this was a project that went pretty much entirely smoothly. We probably still will hand-pluck if we’re doing just a bird or two, but for production poultry plucking (say THAT three times fast), the DIY plucker is totally awesome.
Just one. Hooray!
Until next time,